Antebellum Leesburg (1814-1860)

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Leesburg Streets • Leesburg Academy & Leesburg High School

Yardley Taylor map detail of Leesburg
Detail of the Town of Leesburg, Yardley Taylor map of Loudoun County 1853. Map Collection, Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

By 1850, Leesburg had grown to 1,688 residents.

From the earliest settlers, Leesburg's residents had included slaves. Unlike slaves in rural Loudoun County, Leesburg's slaves were often skilled artisans, worked in shops, or worked in their owner's homes. Mixed with the diversity of the religious and political opinions on slavery held by its white residents, Leesburg's relationship with the institution was complicated and sometimes contradictory. Many of Leesburg's Quakers, Methodists and Presbyterians were active in the Loudoun chapter of the American Colonization Society, which sought to send freed slaves to the new colony of Liberia, in Africa.

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Leesburg Streets

Leesburg Roads, 1858
Leesburg Roads. Courtesy of Gary M. Clemens,
Clerk of the Circuit Court, Loudoun County, VA.

Loudoun Street, not Market Street, was originally the main east-west road in Leesburg - East Market Street continued on what is present-day Edwards Ferry Road, while Loudoun Street became Fayette Street.

In 1858 it was ordered that the town's road survey be updated to indicate the eastern and western terminuses of Loudoun and Market Streets with Leesburg Turnpike, the footprint familiar to present day residents and visitors.



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Leesburg Academy & Leesburg High School

Leesburg Academy Building
Leesburg Academy Building. Winslow Williams Photograph Collection (VC 0004), Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

One of the earliest and most-enduring private schools in Loudoun County was the Leesburg Academy. Chartered by act of the Virginia Assembly in 1799, the Academy was a classical Latin grammar school for boys. A lottery was held to raise monies for the construction of a suitable facility, which was built next to the Loudoun County Courthouse in 1844. In 1873, the Academy relocated to 102 North Street.

Unlike many antebellum private schools in Loudoun County, the Academy successfully weathered the Civil War. But it was unable to withstand the competition posed by a free education system after the war, and closed its doors in 1879. In 1879, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors purchased the original Academy building, which is now the part of the Loudoun County Courthouse Complex.

When the Leesburg Academy closed in 1879, Leesburg High School moved into the building. The building on North Street burned in 1893 and 1925, and was rebuilt each time. In 1954, as a result of county-wide school consolidation, Loudoun County High School opened in Leesburg as the one high school for the entire county.
Leesburg High School, ca. 1915
Leesburg High School, ca. 1915, formerly site of Leesburg Academy. Historical Postcards, 1900-2008 (VC 0004), Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA.

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Discover more about Leesburg during its first decades.

Discover more about Leesburg during the Civil War.